Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said there were only 10 Tagal rivers in three districts in 2000 involving 30 villages, but the number has increased to 193 rivers in 17 districts this year involving 477 villages.
"Ranau tops the list for having the highest number of Tagal rivers with 95, followed by Tambunan (78 rivers), Tuaran (75) and Kota Belud (46).
"Of the 477 Tagal rivers, 473 are situated at upper river that have many 'pelian' fish, three at lower river with a high content of freshwater prawn and one Tagal river at 'rice bowl' river in Kota Belud that has various species of freshwater fish and prawns," he said.
He was replying to Sulabayan Assemblyman Datuk Harman Mohammad who asked on the number of Tagal rivers in Sabah to protect the fishery industry, especially freshwater fish and prawns.
Yahya said his ministry has introduced zoning approach as part of its Tagal system management in Sabah in 2004 through the Sabah Fishery Department.
"The zoning for Tagal river is divided into three - Red, Yellow and Green - mainly to ensure sustainabilty of the river. Red Zone is a no-take zone that prohibits fishing and it is for conservation and agro-tourism purposes.
"The Yellow Zone is where the villagers are allowed to catch the fish between one and four times a year while the Green Zone allows the villagers to catch the fish throughout the year based on existing regulations and rules set by a Tagal Committee and Fishery Department," he said.
Yahya said the villagers are also not allowed to chop down trees and extract stones in all Tagal rivers.
According to him, implementation of the Tagal river system has won several environmental awards at state and national levels.
In addition, the Fishery Department, he said, is currently providing various assistance for the Tagal rivers like covering the cost of opening new Tagal river, signboard Tagal and fishing equipment in the Tagal river, among others.
Yahya also targeted the total number of Tagal rivers in Sabah to increase to 500 by next year.
He added that the ministry also plans to increase the number of Tagal rivers in 'rice bowl' rivers from the existing one to three by end of this year.
Meanwhile, Rural Development Minister Datuk Ewon Ebin said Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) is still waiting for approval from the Forestry Department to have access road through Timimbang Forest Reserve to bring in oil palm seedlings from its nursery at Karamatoi, Keningau to Mini Estet Sejahtera (Mesej) project at KgMansalu, Ranau.
He was replying to Kundasang Assemblyman Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam on the cause of delaying implementation Mesej oil palm project at Kg Mansalu and the State Government's action to resolve the issue.
Ewon said such application for the route in the forest reserve has been processed by the Ranau District Office and Assistant Collector Land Revenue (ACLR) Beluran.
According to him, work on the project started on March 4 last year and the land clearing was completed on Jan 15 this year.
He assured that the plantation of oil palm seedlings will be completed by March 30, next year and other works including applying for the access road in the forest reserve will not affect the schedule to implement the project.